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Spaceflight Consistently Affects the Gut

25 Aug 2019, 18:22 UTC
Spaceflight Consistently Affects the Gut
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A new Northwestern University study discovered that spaceflight -- both aboard a space shuttle or the International Space Station (ISS) -- has a consistent effect on the gut microbiome.The Northwestern researchers developed a novel analytical tool to compare microbiome data from mice as far back as 2011. Called STARMAPS (Similarity Test for Accordant and Reproducible Microbiome Abundance Patterns), the tool indicates that spaceflight causes a specific, consistent change on the abundance, ratios and diversity of bacteria in the gut.Perhaps most surprisingly, the team also used STARMAPS to compare spaceflight data to data collected from Earth-based studies on the effects of radiation on the gut. They effectively ruled out space radiation as the cause of changes in the microbiome during spaceflight."Radiation definitely has an effect on the gut microbiome," said Northwestern's Martha Vitaterna, who led the study. "But those effects do not look like what we saw in spaceflight."The study published last week in the journal Microbiome. Vitaterna is a research professor in neurobiology at Northwestern's Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. Peng Jiang, research assistant professor in neurobiology at Weinberg, was the paper's first author.Vitaterna and longtime collaborator Fred W. Turek, also from Northwestern, led the microbiome section of NASA's ...

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